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Shawn Ryan Biography


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Birth Name: Shawn Ryan
Born: 10/11/1966
Birth Place: Rockford, Illinois, USA


Born on Oct. 11, 1966 in Rockford, IL, Ryan made his first foray into theatrical writing as a theater and economics major at Middlebury College in Vermont, where he won the Sony Pictures Television Comedy Playwright Award in 1989. The win allowed him to move west to Los Angeles the following year, where Ryan landed an internship on the Paul Reiser sitcom, "My Two Dads" (NBC, 1987-1990), on which he sold a story idea and earned his first onscreen credit. He spent a few years kicking around before landing a staff writing position on "Nash Bridges" (CBS, 1996-2001), which starred Don Johnson as a flashy, top-shelf police inspector in San Francisco. Ryan climbed the ladder on the series, moving up from staff writer to story editor and finally co-producer. He left "Nash Bridges" to join Joss Whedon on the cult hit, "Angel" (The WB, 1999-2004), on which he made his way up to the producer. While on that show, Ryan saw his first feature, "Welcome to Hollywood" (2000), finally released. Made in 1997, the satiric mockumentary starred the film's director, Adam Rifkin, who plays a director trying to make a documentary about a rising new star (Tony Markes). After making its debut at the AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival in 1998, the film languished until it went straight-to-DVD two years later.

Ready to step into the role of show creator, Ryan wrote the pilot episode for "The Shield" (FX, 2002-08), a gritty and hard-edged cop drama inspired from the Rampart scandal that plagued the Los Angeles Police Department following national headlines detailing its rampant corruption and violence. "The Shield" centered on the corrupt and morally compromised antihero Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), the leader of the undercover Strike Team that consisted of the reckless Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins), the oft-conflicted Curtis "Lem" Lemansky (Kenny Johnson) and the reticent surveillance expert Ronnie Gardocki (Ryan's real-life friend, David Rees Snell). Because the first episode ended with Mackey killing another cop, Terry Crowley (Reed Diamond), who was tasked by department captain, David Aceveda (Benito Martinez), with taking him down, "The Shield" spent the ensuing seven seasons depicting the slow fall of a man who stops at nothing to avert being caught while doing what he thinks is right to take down gangs and drug dealers, regardless of the law. While avoiding the circling police investigators and internal affairs officers trying once and for all to put him behind bars, Mackey - through his increasingly desperate and consequential actions - loses everything that ever meant anything to him, including his wife (Ryan's real-life wife, Cathy Cahlin Ryan) and two kids (Autumn Chiklis and Joel Rosenthal/Jack Webber).

Shot with mostly hand-held cameras to give it a more realistic and high-energy feel, "The Shield" became the biggest hit on the fledgling cable network, FX, while winning a surprising Golden Globe for Best Drama Series following its first season. The show raised the bar - or lowered it according to some critics - for all cop shows to follow for its depiction of gang warfare, police corruption and the weary citizens trapped in between, while keeping audiences on the edge of their seats guessing what would come next. In one of his most agonizing decisions as the series showrunner, Ryan killed off Lem, arguably the show's most beloved character, in the last episode of season five, which shocked everyone from audiences to cast members and crew. While the last two seasons were decidedly anticlimactic following Lem's death, "The Shield" remained one of the best cop shows ever to grace the small screen and perhaps Ryan's greatest accomplishment as a writer. While still running "The Shield," Ryan executive produced and wrote for the David Mamet-created action drama, "The Unit" (CBS, 2006-09), which followed both the personal and professional lives of an elite special forces unit headed by Sgt. Maj. Jonas Blane (Dennis Haysbert). Though never groundbreaking or a huge ratings winner, "The Unit" nonetheless held strong for a solid four season run.

Once "The Shield" wrapped for good after its seventh season, Ryan helped shepherd other shows onto the air as an executive producer and showrunner to varying degrees of success. He served as the executive producer of the short-lived procedural, "Women's Murder Club" (ABC, 2007-08), created by former "Shield" producers Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain, which centered on four San Francisco women - a police inspector (Angie Harmon), the Deputy District Attorney (Laura Harris), a medical examiner (Paula Newsome) and a crime reporter (Aubrey Dollar) - who use their respective expertise to solve murders. Ryan moved on to become the executive producer and showrunner on "Lie to Me" (Fox, 2009- ), a procedural drama about a cynical researcher (Tim Roth) who heads a team that assists the FBI and police in determining whether or not someone is telling the truth regarding an investigation. While that show attracted respectable ratings and positive reviews, Ryan became the showrunner on the short-lived but critically-lauded "Terriers" (FX, 2010), an hour-long crime comedy about two unlicensed private investigators (Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James) in San Diego. Creating his first series since "The Shield," he explored the worlds of both cops and politicians in "The Chicago Code" (Fox, 2011- ), a midseason replacement that premiered after the 2011 Super Bowl XLV.